Dir.: Dario Argento
Producer(s): Claudio and Salvatore Argento
Writer(s): Dario Argento, Daria Nicolodi, an essay (1845, Thomas De Quincey) “Suspiria de Profundis”
Company: Seda Spettacoli, Produzioni Atlas Consorziate
Starring: Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Flavio Bucci, Miguel Bosé, Alida Valli, Udo Kier and Joan Bennett.
How do we start off talking about this film?
This film… is a huge influence of why I even started this blog (originally on tumblr @ shotsofhorror, it’s still up to check out). To me, Suspiria is a great example of the things that I love to see in horror: colors, lighting, the overall cinematography of the movie, the weirdness that’s apparent but it makes sense because of the atmosphere. There’s a lot to digest.
I wish I had this movie in my collection… either vhs form or even dvd format. I haven’t been so lucky finding it second hand but I’m sure Scream Factory or some place would have it. Having it on vhs would be a great vhs finds and those are far and between.
The main plot of Suspiria is an American ballet dancer goes to Germany to attend dance school there. Unfortunately, the school is run by a coven of witches. And that is all I am going to say about this because there’s more spoilers and details that if I just wrote or spoke about them, most likely you’ll go “huh/what?” without the full context.
Suspiria was my first “tipping my toe” into the waters of Italian (giallo) horror film. Other notable films to check out are Demons, Demons 2, Zombie, Cannibal Holocaust, Deep Red, Phenomena/Creepers, The Beyond, Black Sunday, and countless others so please check out these films and the directors that have made this style or genre of horror very popular and prominent.
Let’s jump into this!
The colors in this movie… and the use of colors is magical, beautiful, neon, right in your face glow colors. Even the kills, when surrounded by the colors, are shot beautifully which is so odd to say about deaths in a horror. It’s intricate, it’s personal, memorable. For example, one of the more famous and memorable kills involves a glass ceiling shattering but the entire set up and shot is the icing on the cake so to speak. It’s brightly lit, the glass itself is colored and breaks into multiple pieces and even the blood itself is like a neon red, it’s so red that it’ll stick with you.
There’s also something else I’ve noticed or associated this movie with and it just came to me. The colors used, mostly red, blue, yellow… all I kept thinking about were the artists Mondrian and Calder. I know it’s so random and it probably has nothing to do with it but Piet Mondrian (died 1944, ironically born on Feb 1st) and Alexander Calder (died 1976) works and uses of those same colors just came into my mind.
Calder did a lot of mobiles and stabiles (forms created with sheet metal) as well as sculptural pieces. Mondrian did a lot of compositions using geometric shapes but he was also a theoretician.
*from L to R:
Calder, Les Vers Noirs (Black Worms, tapestry). Calder, Maripose, 1960. Mondrian, Composition C, 1935. Mondrian, Composition B (No. II), 1935. Calder, Untitled, c. 1955.
This was the connection I observed and it’s my own opinion. Art and the various media forms of it (fashion, film, television, music, etc) are all influenced by each other and I can believe that perhaps Argento as well as his cinematographer Luciano Tovoli, were influenced by these two artists and possibly others I haven’t thought of yet. There are design elements that support my idea of this. I can go further into detail about that and truly let me inner art nerd exposed but this is not the time or place or post.
*Random fun fact: Calder’s works or perhaps replicas of his works are in the background of Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.
Suspiria is bathed in color and music. The camera angles. The smoothness. Great storytelling and building up the suspense for unexpected kills or moments to propel you to the very cool climax. Yes, the movie starts off pretty strong and then slows but then picks up. But it’s a thriller, it’s mystery and horror. Basically, I don’t think you can be bored watching this. There’s too many things going on for it to be boring and I have seen some boring horror movies. Not good.
In conclusion, Suspiria, to me, is a beautiful looking film. It’s well put together, polished (which makes sense if the film’s setting is a very posh ballet/dance academy), disturbing film. It is one of Argento’s best and whether you like or dislike this film or the re-imagined one that came out in 2018, you have to acknowledge this film. It is a classic in its own way, in its own genre and personally one of my top ten favorite horror films.
*Also, this film came out on February 1st which makes it 42 years old.